Impostor Syndrome

Hey kids! Let’s have a chat about impostor syndrome. This is something that seems to be more prevalent with the ladies, so this will be geared more towards a female perspective.

The definition of Impostor Syndrome is "a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud".


Many women feel this quite profoundly. We make a mistake and think 'wow ... I'm such a noob. I shouldn't have this job' ... this is not accurate in any way. Everyone is entitled to be human. To make mistakes. And to learn. When you begin a new position, allow yourself the time to grow and learn and make mistakes. Most people need 6 months to 1 year to fully understand their job inside and out. Many companies are aware of this and allow that ramp up time as needed. If your company expects you to know a brand new codebase in a week, chances are you don't want to work there. When you have impossible expectations put on you by others, those impossible expectations become your own. That should not happen. Allow yourself to make attainable goals at new jobs. This will help to settle the feelings of being an impostor.

When you have coworkers that are making you feel like you are an impostor, maybe they constantly question every idea you have ... or they question every code change you make ... or they start to act like your manager when you are clearly peers .... these kinds of microaggressions by others can absolutely make you doubt yourself or make you feel small. Mansplaining can also cause some serious self doubt as well ... 'Did I actually just say that or maybe I said it wrong? Maybe I didn't explain well'. You probably did a great job of explaining, so great in fact, that someone else feels intimidated by your amazingness. Take a step back and consider if this is the case. If it is, do your best to counter those self doubting feelings by responding back kindly with the wealth of knowledge you have. Let them question you cuz girl, you have the answer!! Keep it professional. Always. Show respect even if they don't show it to you. This shows the world what a badass you are and how you always take the high road. Disrespect is a tool in the arsenal of the weak.

Disrespect is not a valuation of your worth, but a signal of their character


This article in the Harvard Business Review looks at why impostor syndrome should stop being used. The authors note that when a person feels doubt or uncertainty, this should not be considered a diagnosable issue. This is a normal response to new careers, roles, tasks, etc. Feeling uncertain is, in fact, routine.

Confidence Doesn’t Equal Competence

The authors challenge us to think in a different way and consider that being uncertain is - NORMAL. This does not make a person an impostor or implied criminality.


It is important to note that individuals that are confident are not always competent. These individuals don't usually feel uncertain or doubt themselves, even when they should. Sometimes this blind faith in one's self is everything good in the world. Sometimes, that person's confidence will take down a database or website due to 'stuff they should know but don't'. This is pretty typical in IT. Mistakes happen and that's ok as long as we learn from them. It doesn't make you incompetent when you make a mistake. The purpose of this discussion is not to say that we should all throw caution to the wind. The idea is to have a healthy bit of doubt, but not so much that you debilitate yourself or become dependent upon your mentor to ask the same question over and over again to.

We must have faith in ourselves. Women tend to be our own worst enemies. We must find that healthy balance of normal uncertainty in a new job, and the confidence that we are rock stars once we've proven to ourselves how amazing we are!